Every Catholic faithful to the one true Church knows that Saint Peter was the first pope. As we see in Matthew 16:18, Jesus Christ founded His Church upon Peter, making him the first Vicar of Jesus Christ and establishing the papacy. With his ordination as the first pope, the papal line of succession was also established. While we know that Peter was the first, who was the second pope?
And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. – Matthew 16:18
The earliest account shows that Pope Saint Linus was the second pope and successor to the Prince of the Apostles. In a passage from the book Adversus Haereses written by Saint Irenaeus around the year 180, it is claimed that Pope Linus is the direct successor to Peter, the same Linus mentioned by Saint Paul in his second epistle to Timothy 4:21. The passage reads:
After the Holy Apostles (Peter and Paul) had founded and set the Church in order (in Rome) they gave over the exercise of the episcopal office to Linus. The same Linus is mentioned by St. Paul in his Epistle to Timothy. His successor was Anacletus.
According to the Liber Pontificalis, Linus was Italian, born in Tuscany. His father’s name was recorded as Herculanus, and his mother’s name recorded as Claudia (The same Claudia that is mentioned immediately after Linus in 2 Timothy 4:21). His papacy began the year 67 and ended the year 76.
Try to get here before winter. Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brothers send greetings. – 2 Timothy 4:21
The papacy of Pope Linus existed during a period of great religious persecution in Rome, where it was very dangerous to be Catholic. After a fire broke out in Rome that left several districts of the city destroyed, the Emperor Nero blamed members of the newly formed Church to deflect theories that he set the city ablaze for new construction. He punished the early faithful by feeding them to lions, burning them at the stake, and through crucifixion.
The Liber Pontificalis also asserts that after his death, he was buried next to Saint Peter in the Vatican. A tomb was found at the St. Peters Basilica in 1605 bearing the letters LINVS, but was later found to be part of a longer name, perhaps Aquilinus. Today, the feast of Pope Saint Linus is celebrated on September 23rd.